More than three-quarters of a million (752,296) new Irish passports have been issued up to December of this year, according to figures from Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
Of these at least 162,251 of the applications were made from the UK, including Northern Ireland, the highest on record and nearly double previous records. The UK applications are almost equally split between Northern Ireland (80,964) and the rest of Britain (81,287).
Last week Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the pledges obtained from the British government to protect Northern Ireland and Ireland from disruption after Brexit meant Irish citizenship guarantees for everyone in Northern Ireland meant they would have more rights than anyone else in Britain.
The 1998 Good Friday Agreement enshrines in law the right for anyone born in Northern Ireland to hold Irish or British citizenship or both.
Last week Mr Varadkar told RTÉ News the deal agreed in Brussels: “Irish citizens born in Northern Ireland will have more rights than someone born in Sheffield or London.”
Some immigration law experts have expressed concerns that the existing legislative protections for Irish people in Britain – that they will be treated as British, as British people are treated as Irish in Ireland – are faulty in law. They have argued that new legal safeguards will be needed rather than transposing the 1949 Ireland Act on to post-Brexit statutes.
Britain’s Brexit Department or, Department for Exiting the EU, said a full picture on the future rights of EU citizens in the UK, and vice versa, would not be done until the Brexit negotiations were complete.
It said: “Irish citizens would have additional rights if they travelled to other member states, but would not have additional rights relating to their lives in the UK.”
Overall 752,296 new Irish passports have been issued up to the start of December this year, more than the 733,060 issued in 2016, and the 672,760 in 2015. Another 29,600 passports are currently being processed by Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
In Northern Ireland, 53,715 people applied for Irish passports the year prior to the 2016 Brexit vote, increasing to 67,582 in 2016, and 80,964 so far this year.
DFAT’s current estimated processing time for normal first time passport applicants from Britain is a minimum of seven weeks. This year on-line renewals were introduced for the first time, cutting weeks off the turnaround time.
It said it spent €10,945 transporting postal passport applications from the London embassy to Dublin between January and August and in April it spent €1,872 sending passport applications from London to Dublin via diplomatic courier.
Any Northern Irish citizen can apply for an Irish passport, and anyone born in England, Scotland or Wales who has an Irish parent or grandparent can also apply for a passport.